I've got a bone to pick over mobile phone safety buffers

The words buffer and buffering can be used in many conversations, from trains to the internet and more. But today I want to discuss the nature of safety buffers with regard to mobile phones.

Wednesday, 1st March 2017, 6:01 am
Updated Wednesday, 1st March 2017, 9:02 am

My family and I all utilise the rather unglamorous Tesco mobile phone service. It has no perks, other than financial. No free cinema tickets, no glitzy colours, no great adverts.

It’s about as simple as it can be and as cheap as chips. You could say it’s about as glamorous as a recycling bin. Which is to say, not very at all.

And the reasons I use Tesco for four monthly contracts?

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Because of the cheap price and the safety buffer. When I first started with phones I joined Virgin, swiftly followed by my son. One infatuation (which in fairness was mutual) later, and he’d run up over £50 of extra charges with texts and phone calls.

There was no safety warning, no text or e-mail to me, nothing to give any indication that the love life of a teen was destroying my bank balance. Scary stuff.

When that contract ended, I found Tesco and its safety buffers. Start talking too much and it cuts you off for the rest of the month after spending an extra however much you chose. The lowest buffer spend is £2.50.

So when you, or one of your three children, has spent that (each) they can’t run up any more debt with any more calls. I’m liable for a tenner extra each month, but it’s manageable as Tesco lets you know you’re buffering.

All good so far. But my bone to pick with the system is this – if you want to increase the buffer to, say, £40, Tesco can do that immediately. But when you want to take it back down? You have to wait until the next bill.

Thus potentially opening yourself up to a mega-spend. I asked why this was and was courteously informed by the online service agent that it was, I kid you not, ‘the system’.

Now there’s a phrase that I haven’t heard in a very long time. The system says no. Who believes that? I don’t. More likely it is specifically designed to take away one of the key options which made Tesco so attractive in the first place.


Imagine the shock of winning a Best Picture award at the Oscars, only to have it snatched away from you and given to someone else a mere two minutes later.

Conversely, imagine the despair of always wanting to win an Oscar and then having that moment gazumped by someone else being given your prize before you – mistakenly.

This happened last weekend at the Oscars when La La Land won Best Picture, but didn’t, because it was actually meant for Moonlight.

And then think about the unfortunate person in the background who handed over the wrong envelope.

The person whose job it was to make absolutely sure the correct envelope got into the correct hands at the correct time. Agony all around.


Is it time to shake up sex education in our schools? Seemingly, most of the adult population believe so – and think that our children should be learning about the dangers of sexting.

I couldn’t agree more. Teenagers are the prime candidates for believing themselves to be invincible, and who doesn’t trust in young love?

Well, that’s all of us adults who’ve been there and come out the other side feeling less dewy-eyed.

Sex education should be mandatory. It should be about the sticky, messy reality of relationships, the upsides and the downsides. It should be honest. It should be open.

And it should encourage a healthy attitude to sex, unlike the kind of sex education taught by watching pornography for learning.